Photo credit: NOAA

All this talk about Hurricanes Laura and Marco, mixed with the third anniversary of Hurricane Harvey hitting the Texas coast has me stressed out.

My anxiety is on high alert, my head hurts, I don’t have much patience, I keep thinking about Hurricane Harvey, and I can’t stop worrying about the two storms in the Gulf (even though my yard would love to have rain here in San Antonio).

Maybe this is why distance learning with a first grader seems harder today.

See, three years ago my family was living in Victoria, Texas, and the Category 4 hurricane was headed straight for us.

I can’t remember what I ate for dinner three days ago, but I can remember everything from that week three years ago – preparing to ride out the storm, deciding to evacuate, packing up our house, driving in traffic to my parents’ house in San Antonio, the cat getting sick in the car, watching the TV as the storm hit land, worrying about our house and friends back home, trying to keep two young children entertained, etc.

And the guilt.

Today, as I sit in my safe home in San Antonio, I can recognize some of the symptoms that I’m experiencing and how common they are to anyone who survives a trauma, such as a hurricane. While not diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I have the insight that time and distance have afforded me to understand that surviving a traumatic event, such as this, would trigger anyone.

roof tiles blown into streetIt’s hard to talk about the psychological effects the storm had on me because I feel guilty. I know so many others who had a much worse experience with the hurricane.

There are the friends who stayed behind and spent the whole night listening to their house creak in the 100+ mph winds. My family evacuated and was safe that night.

There are the friends who had trees fall through their kitchen, and those who would completely lose their houses to storm damage. The damage to our house was minimal – tree limbs in the yard, a fence down and an eventual roof replacement. Although my husband will never forget the smell of cleaning out our fridge after the electricity went out for days. Yuck!

How can I justify my post-traumatic stress when so many others had it way worse?

One thing I’m learning about mental health is that it isn’t a competition.

It isn’t about who has it worse. You feel what you feel and it affects you how it affects you. Everyone should feel comfortable talking about their mental health challenges, no matter how big or small they are. And that it is okay to not be okay.

I bring this up, not to talk about myself but to show that traumatic experiences come in all shapes and sizes. Trauma doesn’t just have to be from a war zone or physical abuse. While we would consider those experiences very distressing, there are other events in our lives that can cause trauma too, such as a natural disaster or even witnessing a traumatic event. Trauma isn’t a one-size-fits-all.

The other point I want to make is that when you feel stressed about a previous trauma, do what makes you feel better. For me, writing this out is helpful. It allows me to acknowledge how I feel. Talking to a counselor or a loved one might help you.

And while you may continue to feel guilt, like I do, knowing that your feelings are validated is what matters most. 

If you have experienced trauma in your life and want to talk to someone, I highly recommend you call JFS and ask to speak with a licensed counselor. All of the JFS counselors are trained in trauma-informed care. They can teach you ways to work through your mental health challenges. Call JFS at 210-302-6920.

Katy is the Marketing and Development Manager at JFS. She works behind the scenes providing content to educate and inform JFS stakeholders. Personally, she likes to learn about brain science and mental health challenges to help her raise two well-rounded daughters.